My Sportsman: CC Sabathia
It was a modern marriage, born of Cleveland's desire to salvage something out of its last few months in control of
And yet, when the Brewers ended that drought by clinching the NL wild card on the season's final day, there was no player who had poured more of himself into the playoff bid than Sabathia. His stats were Cy-worthy -- 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 130 2/3 innings pitched -- but his actions showed a level of devotion disproportionate with his status as a rental. It began with his arrival: Instead of lagging back in Cleveland for a day or two to settle his affairs -- as many a traded star has done in the past -- Sabathia showed up in Milwaukee the day the trade was announced and threw six strong innings for a victory over the Rockies the following night.
He endeared himself to his new teammates as a giant, laid-back, regular dude who happened to be the best lefty in baseball. He threw caution to the wind and threw
In the Brewers' clubhouse after they clinched, the 6-foot-8 Sabathia was at the center of the celebration, having beer and champagne dumped on his head while teammates chanted "C! C! C! C!" Outside, in the stands, most of the fans lingered, soaking in a moment the gravity of which Sabathia probably could not fully appreciate, a celebration for a long-downtrodden baseball town finally exiting its Dark Age. Sabathia had taken a young team with a slumping offense and a beaten-up pitching staff, put it on his back and carried it into the postseason. What the Brewers realistically expected when they traded for Sabathia, I don't know, but it couldn't have been
When Sabathia made his fourth-straight start on three days' rest, in Game 2 of the NLDS against the eventual world champion Phillies, he finally cracked. He was chased from the hill in just 3 2/3 innings, having given up five runs and been subjected to a sold-out Citizens Bank Park hauntingly chanting his name. Milwaukee's short-term hero, for once, was humanized. Brewers fans accepted it with little anger, for they knew Sabathia, like a true Sportsman, cared as much as they did. He had already done more than enough. And if he ever returns to Miller Park -- as a Dodger, or a Giant, or a Yankee -- there won't be a boo-bird in the house.